How I became a colonial

Publié le 13/02/2011

Malta 1843.

Paul Caruana looked at the letter on the table. For over half an hour she was in front of him without make up his mind to open.
- You'll admire like this until tonight? asked his mother.
- What do you want me to do?
In addition to not read, Paul had never received letters to this day.
- Go see our priest. Will read it to you.
Caruana was a nod. How dare visit the priest when he doesn't set foot in church for months? Shame had come to conquer his fear of hell. God no doubt included the distress that drove him to perjury. One of his last pair of shoes was opened as an overripe fig. Left his shirt in tatters and his pants did not seem in better condition.
- Tell him the truth, advised his mother. On this island, we are not the only ones to miss anything, even food.
Fucking misery! The Maltese Islands knew his third year of drought. Land burned by the sun and the sirocco, opened large cracks as fist. The food became a luxury that only the English could still afford. A garrison of fifteen thousand men, officials and their families had to be fed: the Brits raflaient the little island still occur, precipitating the population in the famine.
Faced with disaster, some Maltese dared whisper, imagining that we could import some wheat bags French. These gentlemen laughed in their faces. The British Empire relying on France to supply its colonies. Should it be for Maltese imagine such a humiliation.
- I think I'll go, Paul Caruana announced without moving an inch.
He had a look through the open window. The herd had gathered at the end of the field. Nothing to graze, two goats were dead within a few weeks and survivors gave no milk.
Paul now spent his days in the nearby creek. The twenty tiny rock fish, a pair of mules, a bream lucky days, often represented their only meal.
Caruana finally got up and left.

- The letter is from your brother, announced capelin after opening the envelope.
- De Gaetano, are you sure?
Paul could not believe it. He lived in the certainty that he would hear talk of his elder. He had spent weeks in the port of Valletta, sleeping on the docks in the hope of being hired on one of the ships calling on the island. He had obviously pulled it off despite the competition. Thousands were starting to dream land to hospital where children would never go hungry. A sixth of the population is in fact preparing to leave the country of his ancestors. These men, women, and would generate the largest emigration percentage that the world has ever known.
- Where is he now? Paul asked.
The priest crossed himself before answering:
- In Tunis, in Barbary.
Recalling a name alone terror in the colors of hell that was imposed on the inhabitants of the archipelago for centuries. The race war then knew heyday. Corsairs from Tunis and Algiers, Knights of Malta, went politeness in raids that captured people ended up under the yoke of slavery. These exchange visits now belonged to the past. France had occupied Algeria. The Royal Navy watched over the sleep of the assignees of his Empire. And there is evidence that hungry people sleep better.
- From what he says, added capelin, life is easier among the heathen for men who are not afraid of work. It offers you, your mother and you, go find it. It also asks you to bring your goats. It seems that people out there appreciate the milk of goats in Malta.
The priest nodded.
- I would be surprised that a Mohammedan can make the difference between goat's milk and sheep that. Well, I continue. He awaits your answer. If you agree, he will send someone to pick you up in a few weeks. It will keep you ready anytime. The boat will not wait for you. He ended by saying that he will make his case the cost of the crossing and he kisses you.
The priest gave the page graph paper in the envelope.
- If you want, I'll write the answer.
- Thank you father! I think my mother and I tell you, 'said Paul, rising.
- And do not be ashamed to come to Mass on Sunday, even told the priest the raccompagnant. I reassure you. Half of the parishioners who attend services have no shoes.

The subject now occupied most of their trade. Widow Ms Caruana perceived in this opportunity a chance not to miss. However, it never envisioned to be part of the journey. The end of the road was here beside her husband in the small cemetery adjacent to the parish church.
Paul then decided to classify the project in the drawer business without result. He was preparing to make another visit to the capelin when his mother returned to the charge.
- Everything is arranged, she said. You do not have to worry of me. I'll live with your sister Fiona. Her husband is willing to accommodate me. He asks you to give him only four goats before leaving.

Paul awoke with a start. We knocked on the door unceremoniously.
- You have half an hour to get ready and gather thy cattle, announced one of two visitors in a shaky Maltese. The boat is anchored in St. George's Bay. Out in two hours.
- This way, at night?
The other smiled.
- Yep, this is how our business is quite handy at night.
- And what is your occupation?
- The same as your brother Gaetano and many Maltese in Tunisia. It is a kind of import-export trade which are more in isolated coves in major ports. You know what I mean?
No, Caruana did not see. But now lent itself to some clarification. Time to shake his mother against him, goats out of the sheepfold, Paul Caruana Ghar Dalam left the village of his ancestors. Two hours later, the island disappeared into the mists of the night. He was never to return.

Slag, Malte

Tunis 1846.

Camerla Caruana got his goat to the little cart conceived and designed by her husband. She set Fifine the first floor, the Imperial somehow an old quilt padded and lined with an umbrella to use all seasons.
The baby opened his eyes, smiled at his mother and went back to sleep. Camerla passed his hand over his face in a tender caress.
- It's time for your walk, she said, loading a watering can and a sponge for cleaning the udder of his animals.
The herd began to move. The goat seriously as an officer of the Indian army, kept his distance, advancing two steps behind her boss without getting distracted by the stalks of vegetables and greasy paper perfumed by the remnants of honey cakes.
- Aia Aia! Mourou, mourou! Camerla cried, extending its calls for an inimitable whistle, known throughout the franc area and in every streets of the Medina.
The first customers came on the door, causing a general confrontation. Goat then lost their composure, which distributes many blows horn in their desire to appear ahead of Camerla. Their breasts hanging to the ground, beat their legs and ached. Their struggle was that of freedom.

Paul Caruana left the church Holy Cross. Sitting on the steps, he took off his shoes, tied the laces and well laid on his shoulder. A gesture guided by a concern for economy never left despite three gold that his work and that of his wife had reported their parts.
The priest, an Italian Northern blond like an angel from Heaven, turn left and sat down beside her.
- Paolo, he said, let me give you some advice. And I think it would be wise as you prennes seriously. You see, I think it's time that your son attends Nazzareno Italian school.
Caruana nodded. The idea seemed more than absurd.
- At school, but for what my father? he asked.
- To learn to read and write. But also speak good Italian. You know that you, the Maltese in Tunisia, you are destined to become Italian one day or the other. And I think this is the desire of the majority of you.
Paul could not deny that the priest was right. The few thousands of Maltese living in Tunis underwent more Italian influence, the only European community organized, defended by a powerful and active embassy.
Malta is not considered a nation, its people could not claim any citizenship. A time when the Tunisian law imposed on European consulates to support their nationals. But where to put the Maltese became well bulky? The Embassy of the United Kingdom, at the request of the present Bey, was forced to acknowledge their existence. And behold subjects of the British Empire or Anglo-Maltese elements according to the mood of a service secretary.
A decision which does not fit the English either. The only path that opened before them headed for the Italian nationality. Throughout the organization of daily life they were invited: the Holy Cross parish on which reigned Italian clergy, newspapers, schools, the island of Malta, which was lost in memories, mixed marriages and the legitimate desire of belonging to a nation ready to recognize them as full citizens.
- I speak Arabic, Maltese and Italian admirably Caruana. And yet, I never went to school.
The priest smiled.
- There is talk of Italian, true, not Sicilian gibberish I hear here every day, and which I had to adapt myself to make me understand.
Caruana promised to think. Ten minutes later, walking in the Medina, he had forgotten the priest and his strange idea.
Paul could not get tired of the show offered him contracts Tunis. He had to admit that Allah could be more generous than the Christ sometimes. Citrus mountains, blessed vegetable garden of the gods, watermelons one man could carry dozens of butchers offering lambs removed from their mothers and sheep farm and fragrant according to taste flesh. Living, noisy markets, led by bands streets, fortune tellers and snake charmers. Markets where the smell was assailed at every moment: coriander, clove, tebelcarouia, Camoun, mingled in bouquets that belonged only to the East.
Caruana noticed again that Tunisia had captured. He loved this country and all beings who shared: Arabs, Jews, Sicilians and Maltese. It was now certain. It was on this earth he wanted to die.
Paul found his fondouk franc area, the only place where Christians were entitled to reside.
Parts one in the other opened onto a courtyard that look like Noah's ark. Pigs, poultry and goats tenants shared space with donkeys Tunisians visiting the Medina and camels nomadic tribes living in the city time to sell their handicrafts.
There were piled thirty Maltese families, among the rubbish in the sweet smell of manure and garbage. And when the weather began to storm, when these tornadoes to the Mediterranean watered the city, then happened to them all that water carried with it. The franc area deserved his title sewer Tunis.

Holy Cross Church, Tunis
Holy Cross Church, Tunis

Tunis 1862.

That day were buried Paul Caruana, carried away by the typhoid epidemic which had the effect of pruning the free area and free up a few places for new immigrants. The flood of destitute arriving from Sicily and Malta was not about to dry up. Without this absurd law Bey, forcing them to crowd into the cesspool of the city, their existence would have had a taste of honey. This country had indeed seventeen inhabitants per square kilometer. The Maltese archipelago were over six hundred.

Tunis 1881.

Nazzareno Caruana arrived two hours before the parade. The large crowd thronged along the Promenade de la Mer Tunisians came in number, who no doubt celebrate the arrival of an enlightened civilization that finally come out of their Middle Ages. Jews seemed more skeptical. They deem to play, history has taught its vicissitudes often designated as the scapegoat.
Caruana, he was there to enjoy a free show. The event did not seem likely to change the course of its existence. France, at that time, offered Maltese blurred and mixed picture. The latter had not forgotten the passage of Bonaparte and his soldiers on their island. The soldiers of the Revolution, bringing in their luggage utopia of freedom, were greeted as liberators. They sounded the death knell of the reign of the Knights, masters of the archipelago since 1530. Eighteen months later, the people rebelled against the invaders and looters arrogant to boot. The English had helped to send them these bulky visitors. They had forgotten to leave the island once their generous mission accomplished. The image of France found some colors with the capture of Algiers, that nest of pirates guilty of many raids for centuries. A new meeting between French and Maltese announced. Would she lead the better or worse?
The Italians were confined to their homes. This day means to them a very heavy defeat. France had indeed steal them a place that history seemed to have reserved.
Nazzareno Caruana scoffed at this moment of all these political tribulations. Deprived of citizenship, it was not driven by any national sentiment. He belonged to the tribe of Maltese Tunis: it was his only flag. Even the island of his ancestors was lost in memories. The last letter dating back to ten years. She announcing the death of his grandmother and thus opened the book from oblivion.
The last we heard music. The large and beautiful colonial army went up the Boulevard de la Mer One hour colorful spectacle during which France showed his muscles. Tunisia had not chosen by chance its protective power. And insurgents Central and South did not seem to have understood that we had to offer them a thousand years of happiness and prosperity.
Caruana found three pieces of his fondouk where piled brats. Taken by the newspaper, he forgot the France and the Protectorate. The event did not seem likely to change the course of his destiny.

Avenue Jules Ferry, Tunis
Avenue Jules Ferry, Tunis

Tunis 1920.

Lazare Caruana stopped his araba face 56 rue de la Verdure. He left his cart, patted the rump of its Anglo-Arab in a caress father.
The horse had entered the existence of the fondouk Caruana Street Sidi Kadous. And he wrote the first page of a rich multi-volume epic.
Rachid Boussen waiting. He served the tea, then opened about by many salaams as it should before talking business.
- Why do the majority of Maltese do they choose this area to settle? he asked then.
- Because they want to stay together, Lazarus replied without hesitation. And now, here we have our church and our cemetery.
With the arrival of France, Tunis coming out of the walls and knew an unprecedented expansion. The new town had chosen his camp. She had to Tunis the most European city in North Africa.
Maltese, one after another, had settled in the neighborhood of Bab el-Khadra, giving their name to a few surrounding streets: rue Srira Malta, Maltese rue de la Valette.
Every day saw opening new sites, to the great benefit of the Italian community. Yet it retained all his animosity towards France, dreaming of a turnaround that would make Tunisia a transalpine colony.
Lazare Caruana had perceived that he could take advantage of this unexpected windfall. He invested the few pennies that he had left his father in a cart and a solid and strong horse. Carrier construction materials, he worked twelve hours a day, six days a week.
- And it bothers you sell your land to the Maltese? he asked, finding Rachid Boussen.
Tunisian was a nod. The subject aroused in him mixed feelings. Fields where does that grew melons, through France became real gold nuggets. But France had made him a colonized. Probably the richest area colonized. How much, however, can we quantify the self-esteem?
- All in all, I prefer to sell to Maltais, who almost all speak Arabic, who live like us and we look a bit like our cousins. And besides, they call their Christian god Allah.
- This is not a feat for us to speak Arabic. Our languages ??are alike and we are almost neighbors.
Lazare also practiced the common Sicilian neighborhoods. The French raised against him more problems. This language, however, required a little more each day. And talk as it should you distinguish her man. Also, as many members of the community, Lazarus had decided to send her children to school French.
- So, how you do me this piece of land? he asked.
Rachid Boussen announced a price.
- Al Madona! Caruana cried, raising his arms to heaven. Still happy that you consider me as your cousin, if you even take me my pants.
Tunisian smiled. They said they had Maltese inherited the business acumen of the Phoenicians, the first invader of the island, and one who had probably forged the mentality of its inhabitants.
Two hours of trading in Oriental fashion, smile, without ever leaving his good humor. Finding his araba Lazarus Caruana had acquired four acres of land, located on the site of Bab el-Khadra, with stunning views of the Muslim cemetery. He had to enter the closed world of the capitalists. Only remained for him to become a colonialist.

Porte de France, Tunis
Porte de France, Tunis

Tunis 1921.

French is a homebody be attached to the tower of the village. France recorded therefore failed in its efforts to populate his empire from elements from the metropolis.
In Tunisia, the Italian risk continues to worry the Resident Minister. France the lack of citizens oppose the Italian-Sicilian group. Do not worry, she'll find the stock that colonization has at its disposal.
Caruana Lazarus fell asleep on the evening of November 7, 1921. It was at this moment the inglorious element Anglo-Maltese title; byproduct of the British Empire in other words. Funny English indeed, incapable of saying hello and goodbye in their own language. He awoke on the morning of November 8. Bey had signed the decree presented to him, stating that all Maltese born in the Regency became French, with, for young people the opportunity to waive this provision in their majority. And now here is a citizen of the great colonial power. French funny actually, barely able to say hello and goodbye in their own language.
Five in 1600 and Maltese had to change his nationality without one had the idea to ask their opinion. However, it was not counting on the response of England. The consul of the country discovered a sudden affection for these "subjects" that we had to deny. Tenderness where the anti-French sentiment undoubtedly played a key role. The affair made a great noise. And the International Court of Justice had to decide the dispute. France was thus condemned to restore these naturalized office in Britain.
Caruana, after having tasted the benefits of colonialism, found himself again in the camp of the colonized. England then had the good idea of ??his seven thousand German South-West Africa. To each his naturalized office. British and French eventually agree on this point. And Lazarus in ping-pong, took his place in the tricolor camp.
But what was the state of mind of the French Statistics? Question to Caruana, this is what would come out of his remarks. Remarks in Maltese as it should. It has not received, with its brand new identity card, the complete manual of the language of Molière.
Without doubt he was proud to belong now to the dominant community. And the prospects of a future French seemed to him a chance for his children. It could nevertheless defend themselves against frustration. It had indeed broken the last ties which connected it to the island of his ancestors. On the other hand, it is a little wary of these French, men without God and anticlerical. "An outrage nationality is attempt to Christianity," said the priest. Caruana and thought he must be right. Although time an Italian, he acknowledged that the priest was France in his heart.

M. Paul Cambon, Resident Minister, perceived the danger of propaganda Italian clergy with its neo-naturalized.
Cardinal Lavigerie then took office. The Primate of Africa was seen as a great friend of Malta. A title that earned him his intervention on the island during a cholera epidemic.
The new clergy considered to serve the colonial policy of his country. He was called to replace the Italian priests invited to return home.
And it was to Maltese vicars, friends of France, which gave one of the new parish, the Sacred Heart, located in the center of the Maltese Bab el-Khadra. A church that would become one of the community. Most morning Tunis. Indeed it would propose a Mass at five in the morning. "Mass coachmen. "An agency that Lazarus Caruana was never missed before starting his workday.

Bab-el-Khadra, Tunis
Bab-el-Khadra, Tunis

Tunis 1948.

John Caruana had never needed an alarm clock to get up. At four o'clock, already in his stable, he curried and fed his workmate before pampering her carriage. Then, without waking his wife and kids asleep in three rooms located above the stable, he lunched a bowl of black coffee, raw onion and some sardines.
Time to listen to the mass of the drivers, Jean had taken place in the queue waiting karrozzins their first customers before the Borg coffee.

This morning, John Caruana knew an unusual anxiety in Maltese, placid creatures and a bit fatalistic.
Alfred Sammut, his lifelong friend, drank a glass of coffee when he entered the bar.
- It is received, it told him with a smile, handing him the Tunisian Dispatch. Look, it's there!
Jean read French deciphering each syllable. "Robert Caruana," he mumbled. No doubt. His eldest was admitted in sixth at the Lycee Carnot.
- That one, it will not check it. I can already predict, then the top of his pride he asserted.
The fate of his elder would lead one day to work in an office or in a bank. And if luck was willing to smile at him, maybe he would become official in French, with a villa Mutuelleville and wedding costumes for the whole week.

Tunis 1956.

The piece is played. The curtain falls on the cheers of the victors and despair cuckolds stuffing. Large decide the destiny of nations. The little people are asked to pay the bill.
"The colonialists to the sea! "Screaming and Mohamed Ali under the windows of their neighbors David and Salvatore Carmelo. Robert Caruana would answer them, remind them that they are cousins, almost brothers. But in what language to tell them? Forgotten Arabic, Italian, Maltese, he has only the French and some English to express themselves. So he was. He likes it or not, it is French. And besides he wants. He even claims. It is French in Tunisia, Maltese descent. And thinks he can stay, unwilling to reject this Chakchouka influences that made her identity nothing.
Robert Caruana will build his life here, under Tunisian law. The Maltese have seen other throughout history.

Ville de Tunis

Tunis -Marseille 1961.

John Caruana decided to throw in the towel. For months his workdays did not allow him to pay his horses oats. And the Mayor of Tunis has rejected his request. Habib Bourguiba refused him of betraying the profession of his father driving a taxi.
Misery, again, pushes Caruana exile. Jean dream a moment to find the island of his ancestors. Robert, his eldest, did not share this opinion. Only one out of the land of France will offer them a carrier promising future. A departure and a discovery at a time. Caruana for this industry, like many families these neo-French, Motherland remains a vague concept, filled with some pictures of postcards.
Tunisia shows their output. Malta close their ports. These lost children, that history has abused, have no place on an island crowded.
Marseille would make them forget Tunis Tunis as it looks like. To protect them from oblivion, the same cries host. Colonialists there, colonialists here, the scenery is not for tomorrow.
Funny as "exploiters Arabs" in reality. The Caruana seem experts in the art of hiding the treasure that has earned them the hooded sweat. Two rooms in the attic, oozing moisture, cold days mistral, bread oven in the first rays of sun. John, hostler at the racetrack Bridge Vivaux. Mother, used by some families of the rue Saint-Férreol, and found, in the role of Fatima, all the humiliations inflicted on maids she had never been able to afford. Robert, meanwhile, had won his spurs diver dishwater. Some restaurants in Aix-en-Provence still remember him. A banquet, a wedding, a literature student never refused a few tickets reported a night of dirty dishes and dirty stoves.

Aix-en-Provence 1962.

The Algerian case shakes France. Two hostile camps face, ready for confrontation. Mr. Ménard, professor of literature at the university of Aix-en-Provence, is one of the heroes of the cause of the oppressed. Not that his bravery leads out his Blaster intent to oppose the OAS weapons in hand. His courage seems to speak otherwise. Thus, in about a mismatched, Robert Caruana refers to new treaty dirty colonialist.

40 years later.

Decades have closed scars, thus paving the way to happy memories. The filter time freed history of his passions. Tunisia now carries an emotional look at its communities it recognizes love without calculation they brought him. Malta found scattered his son, which it now offers its most beautiful smiles in his desire to see them rushing, pockets full of currencies.
And Robert Caruana has reconstituted his triptych: Malta, Tunisia, France in the same sentence and in many books. Fallen imperialist has indeed discovered a vocation in the writer job.
The page is turned. Exploiters of bunting are unfashionable. Vindictiveness, inspired by a very ordinary racism is alive now on carriers bunting before selecting other targets.
Only the memory of Mr. Ménard rest in him as an indelible stain. Not that his insults have scored more than another. But his "dirty colonialist" fell like a hair in the soup.
"Off topic. Amiss, Mr. Ménard! "And this attack on the French language, Robert Caruana will never forgive you.

Published courtesy of Claude RIZZO
Photos : Collection ADAMI Group
Books of Claude Rizzo
Tunisie de notre enfance de Claude Rizzo

Achetez chez Elisa, la Maltaise
Le maltais de Bab El-Khadra de Claude Rizzo

Achetez chez La colonie Maltaise en Tunisie

  1. Walk in Xaghra, Aurore VERIÉ
  2. The French in Malta, Aurore Verie
  3. How I became a colonial, Claude Rizzo